One of the most convenient components of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and other 12 Step programs is how easy it is to join. All you really need to do is find a local meeting and show up. In the majority of AA meetings, the chairperson (the individual who is leading the meeting) will ask if it is anyone’s first ever time in a meeting, or if there is anyone present at the meeting who is visiting from out of town or from another AA group. If you would like to, this is generally a great opportunity to introduce yourself. If you are still on the fence there is no need to announce yourself as an ”alcoholic,” simply raise your name and state your first name (most people choose to leave their last name out because of the anonymity component).
Of course, embarking on a new journey of any kind can be intimidating, especially when you aren’t sure what to expect. We are available to answer any additional questions you might have — simply contact us today for more information, or for a comprehensive list of 12 Step meetings in your area.
What is Alcoholics Anonymous?
Alcoholics Anonymous is an international mutual-aid fellowship, designed to help people of all ages and walks of life overcome substance use disorders and maintain abstinence long-term. More commonly referred to as AA, this 12 Step program was initially developed in Akron, Ohio in the mid-1930s by Bill Wilson, a stockbroker, and Dr. Bob, a licensed surgeon. Both men had suffered from severe cases of alcoholism, and were able to successfully stop drinking after acknowledging alcoholism as a malady of the body, mind, and spirit. They worked closely with other alcoholics, implementing a set of 12 distinct steps that began with an admission of powerlessness and unmanageability. Over the course of the past 90 years, the program of Alcoholics Anonymous has maintained its initial integrity and helped millions of individuals from the far corners of the world overcome alcoholism and drug addiction.
The Only Requirement for Membership
Alcoholics Anonymous comes complete with 12 Traditions, which were originally designed to help keep the purpose of AA as clear as possible while keeping the integrity of the program intact. The 3rd Tradition of AA states, “The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking.” The long-form of this Tradition is, “Our membership ought to include all who suffer from alcoholism. Hence we may refuse none who wish to recover. Nor ought AA membership ever depend upon money or conformity. Any two or three alcoholics gathered together for sobriety may call themselves an AA group, provided that, as a group, they have no other affiliation.” What does it all mean? In so many words, this means that all you need to do in order to be a member of AA is decide that you want to quit drinking. This doesn’t even necessarily mean that you feel ready to stop — maybe you have tried to stop repeatedly, and you lack confidence in your ability to quit on your own. Maybe you still have reservations surrounding drinking and your relationship with alcohol. Are you really an alcoholic? Do you have to quit drinking forever, or can you quit drinking for an extended period of time and return to alcohol once you’ve gotten your life together? It is completely normal to have questions and doubts surrounding your relationship with alcohol and your subsequent journey into sobriety. In order to be a member of AA, however, you must at least want to stop drinking — even if just for the time being.
Frequently Asked Questions
The concept of AA membership might seem confusing, but it truly is simple — if you are interested in overcoming a drinking problem (or a problem with any other chemical substance), you are welcome to attend. There are no bouncers at the door who will ask you to qualify or prove your worthiness before entering. No one will integrate you, asking, “Do you really want to quit? Are you sure?” Even if you are curious to learn more about AA and how it works, you can show up to a meeting to investigate. If you are not sure about quitting, however, it is a good idea to find an “open meeting.” An open meeting is a meeting who is open to anyone, whether or not they have a desire to stop drinking.
If I Decide to Leave, Can I Go Back?
Say you start going to meetings, you find a sponsor, you begin working the Steps, and you stay sober for 6 months. At around your 6 month mark you start to have doubts. You think, “Is AA really right for me? I have been able to stay sober for 6 full months, maybe all I needed was an extended break.” You tell your sponsor that you have decided to try controlled drinking. You stop going to meetings and begin drinking socially with friends. In a matter of months you find yourself right back where you started; broken, hopeless, and alone. You want to go back to AA, but you feel ashamed. You wonder if your friends in the program will accept you back.
If you decide to leave, you can always go back! Relapse is a part of the recovery process for many people. It is not uncommon for a person to go test the waters one more time, only to find that AA does in fact improve their overall quality of life.
What If I Don’t Want a Sponsor?
When it comes to AA, everything you hear in the rooms is framed as a suggestion. The only thing you have to do perfectly is stay away from mood and mind-altering substances. But, most people don’t even do this part perfectly. It is suggested that you do more than show up to meetings, however. It is suggested that you find a sponsor and begin working through the steps. If you don’t want a sponsor, there is no immediate urgency to find one. But it might be a good idea to ask yourself why. What are you feeling opposed to? Are you perhaps worried that finding a sponsor will make things real; require you to actually reconsider your relationship with alcohol in a more committal way? We are available to answer any additional questions you have.
If you or someone close to you has been struggling with a diagnosable alcohol use disorder and has had difficulty quitting without help, entering into a 12 Step program might be an ideal place to start. However, it is important to acknowledge that a higher degree of help might be necessary if an alcohol use disorder has become severe, or if there are any co-occurring issues present. For example, someone who has been engaging in daily drinking for upwards of a year might require a short stay in a medically monitored detox center. Someone who has been drinking heavily to self-medicate an underlying depressive disorder might benefit from an extended stay in a dual diagnosis treatment center. The best treatment option will depend on your unique clinical needs. To learn more about whether or not Alcoholics Anonymous is right for you, contact us today.